Who's the dog? Who's the tail?
I DON'T usually tell these stories, because they might
give rise to the suspicion that I am paranoid.
For example: 27 years ago, I was invited to give a
lecture-tour in 30 American universities, including all
the most prestigious ones - Harvard, Yale, Princeton,
MIT, Berkeley and so on. My host was the Fellowship of
Reconciliation, a respected non-Jewish organization,
but the lectures themselves were to be held under the
auspices of the Jewish Bet-Hillel chaplains.
On arrival at the airport in New York I was met by one
of the organizers. "There is a slight hitch," he told
me, "29 of the Rabbis have cancelled your lecture."
In the end, all the lectures did take place, under the
auspices of Christian chaplains. When we came to the
lone Rabbi who had not cancelled my lecture, he told me
the secret: the lectures had been forbidden in a
confidential letter from the Anti-Defamation League,
the thought-police of the Jewish establishment. The
salient phrase has stuck to my memory: "While it cannot
be said that Member of the Knesset Avnery is a traitor,
AND ANOTHER story from real life: a year later I went
to Washington DC in order to "sell" the Two-State
solution, which at the time was considered an
outlandish, not to say crazy, idea. In the course of
the visit, the Quakers were so kind as to arrange a
press conference for me.
When I arrived, I was amazed. The hall was crammed
full, practically all the important American media were
represented. Many had come straight from a press
conference held by Golda Meir, who was also in town.
The event was to last an hour, as is usual, but the
journalists did not let go. They bombarded me with
questions for another two hours. Clearly, what I had to
say was quite new to them and they were interested.
I was curious how this would be reported in the media.
And indeed, the reaction was stunning: not a word
appeared in any of the newspapers, on radio or TV. Not
one single word.
By the way, three years ago I again held a press
conference, this time on Capitol Hill in Washington. It
was an exact replica of the last time: the crowd of
reporters, their obvious interest, the continuation of
the conference well beyond the appointed time - and not
a single word in the media.
I COULD tell some more stories like these, but the
point is made. I recount them only in connection with
the scandal recently caused by two American professors,
Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the
University of Chicago. They published a research paper
on the influence of the Israel lobby in the United
States. [for a pdf file of this paper, go to
In 80 pages, 40 of them footnotes and sources, the two
show how the pro-Israel lobby exercises unbridled power
in the US capital, how it terrorizes the members of the
Senate and the House of Representatives, how the White
House dances to its tune (if indeed a house can dance),
how the important media obey its orders and how the
universities, too, live in fear of it.
The paper caused a storm. And I don't mean the
predictable wild attacks by the "friends of Israel" -
which means almost all politicians, journalists and
professors. These pelted the authors with all the usual
accusations: that they were anti-Semites, that they
were resurrecting the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,
and so forth. There was something paradoxical in these
attacks, since they only illustrated the authors' case.
But the debate that fascinates me is of a different
nature. It broke out between senior intellectuals, from
the legendary Noam Chomsky, the guru of the Left
throughout the world (including Israel), to progressive
websites everywhere. The bone of contention: the
conclusion of the paper that the Jewish-Israeli lobby
dominates US foreign policy and subjugates it to
Israeli interests - in glaring contradiction to the
national interest of the US itself. A case in point:
the American assault on Iraq.
Chomsky and others rose up against this assertion. They
do not deny the factual findings of the two professors,
but object to their conclusions. In their view, it is
not the Israel lobby that directs American policy, but
the interests of the big corporations that dominate the
American empire and exploit Israel for their own
Simply put: does the dog wag its tail, or does the tail
wag its dog?
I AM NERVOUS about sticking my head into a debate
between such illustrious intellectuals, but I feel
obliged to express my view nevertheless.
I'll start with the Jew, who went to the Rabbi and
complained about his neighbor. "You are right'" the
Rabbi declared. Then came the neighbor and denounced
the complainant. "You are right'" the Rabbi announced.
"But how can that be," exclaimed the Rabbi's wife,
"Only one of the two can be right!" "You are right,
too," the Rabbi said.
I find myself in a similar situation. I think that both
sides are right (and hope to be right, myself, too).
The findings of the two professors are right to the
last detail. Every Senator and Congressman knows that
criticizing the Israeli government is political
suicide. Two of them, a Senator and a Congressman,
tried - and were politically executed. The Jewish lobby
was fully mobilized against them and hounded them out
of office. This was done openly, to set a public
example. If the Israeli government wanted a law
tomorrow annulling the Ten Commandments, 95 Senators
(at least) would sign the bill forthwith.
President Bush, for example, has withdrawn from all the
established American positions regarding our conflict.
He accepts automatically the positions of our
government, be they as they may. Almost all the
American media are closed to Palestinians and Israeli
peace activists. As to professors - almost all of them
know which side of their bread is peanut-buttered. If,
in spite of that, somebody dares to open their mouth
against the Israeli policy - as happens once every few
years - they are smothered under a volley of
denunciations: anti-Semite, Holocaust denier, neo-Nazi.
By the way, American guests in Israel, who know that at
home it is forbidden to mention the influence of the
Jewish-Israeli lobby, are dumbfounded to see that here
the lobby does not hide its power in Washington but
openly boasts of it.
The question, therefore, is not whether the two
professors are right in their findings. The question is
what conclusions can be drawn from them.
LET'S TAKE the Iraq affair. Who is the dog? Who the
The Israeli government prayed for this attack, which
has eliminated the strategic threat posed by Iraq.
America was pushed into the war by a group of Neo-
Conservatives, almost all of them Jews, who had a huge
influence on the White House. In the past, some of them
had acted as advisers to Binyamin Netanyahu.
On the face of it, a clear case. The pro-Israeli lobby
pushed for the war, Israel is its main beneficiary. If
the war ends in a disaster for America, Israel will
undoubtedly be blamed.
Really? What about the American aim of getting their
hands on the main oil reserves of the world, in order
to dominate the world economy? What about the aim of
placing an American garrison in the center of the main
oil-producing area, on top of the Iraqi oil, between
the oil of Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Caspian Sea? What
about the immense influence of the big oil companies on
the Bush family? What about the big multinational
corporations, whose outstanding representative is Dick
Cheney, that hoped to make hundreds of billions from
the "reconstruction of Iraq"?
The lesson of the Iraq affair is that the American-
Israeli connection is strongest when it seems that
American interests and Israeli Interests are one
(irrespective of whether that is really the case in the
long run). The US uses Israel to dominate the Middle
East, Israel uses the US to dominate Palestine.
But if something exceptional happens, such as the
Jonathan Pollard espionage affair or the sale of an
Israeli spy plane to China, and a gap opens between the
interests of the two sides, America is quite capable of
slapping Israel in the face.
AMERICAN-ISRAELI relations are indeed unique. It seems
that they have no precedent in history. It is as if
King Herod had given orders to Augustus Caesar and
appointed the members of the Roman senate.
I don't think that this phenomenon can be wholly
explained by economic interests. Even the most orthodox
Marxist must recognize that it also has a spiritual
dimension. It is no accident that American (as well as
British) fundamentalist Christians invented the Zionist
idea well before Theodor Herzl hit upon it. The
evangelical lobby is no less important in today's
Washington than the Zionist one. According to its
ideology, the Jews must take possession of all the Holy
Land in order to make the Second Coming of Christ
possible (and then - the part they don't shout about -
some Jews will become Christians and the rest will be
annihilated at Armaggedon, today's Meggido in Northern
At the basis of the phenomenon lies the uncanny
similarity between the two national-religious stories,
the American myth and the Israeli. In both, pioneers
persecuted for their religion reached the shores of the
Promised Land. They were forced to defend themselves
against the "savage" natives, who were out to destroy
them. They redeemed the land, made the desert bloom,
created, with God's help, a flourishing, democratic and
Both societies live in a state of denial and
unconscious guilt feelings - over there because of the
genocide committed against the Native Americans and the
horrifying slavery of the blacks, here because of the
uprooting of half the Palestinian people and the
oppression of the other half. Both here and there,
people believe in an eternal war between the Sons of
Light and the Sons of Darkness.
ANYHOW, THE American-Israeli symbiosis is unique and
far too complex a phenomenon to be described as a
simple conspiracy. I am sure that the two professors
did not mean to do so.
The dog wags the tail and the tail wags the dog. They
wag each other.